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Conamara is the biggest Irish speaking area in Ireland

The Conamara Gaeltacht remains the strongest Irish speaking area in Ireland, where 39% of the population speak Gaeilge daily outside of the education system.

An Cheathrú Rua is the capital of Galway’s Gaeltacht where there are 520 Irish speakers, including 358 (69%) who speak the language daily.

But the latest 2022 Census data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) shows daily speakers in Galway City’s Gaeltacht has fallen to just 8%, the lowest level of any Gaeltacht area in the country.

The figures for County Galway’s Gaeltacht show that the decline in daily speakers may have plateaued – some 39% of people living in the Gaeltacht in County Galway speak Irish daily, down by 1% compared with 2016. It was 42.3% in 2011.

There are 24,238 Irish speakers in the County Galway Gaeltacht, with An Cheathrú Rua, Indreabhán, An Spidéal and Oileáin Árainn strongholds.

Of these, some 5,265 speak the language within the education system; some 9,373 said they were daily Irish speakers; and a further 1,966 speak Irish weekly.

There were 1,872 people in County Galway’s Gaeltacht who never speak Irish.

Half of Irish speakers in the Galway County Gaeltacht declared they spoke Irish very well, whereas almost one-quarter of Irish speakers declared that they spoke the language well.

The highest proportion of Irish speakers who said they didn’t speak the language well (47%) was in the Galway City Gaeltacht. Only 17% in this area indicated they spoke Irish very well.

There were 106,220 people living in Gaeltacht areas in Census 2022, which was up 7% or 6,603. All eight Gaeltacht areas experienced an increase in population in the six years to 2022.

The largest percentage increase was in the Waterford Gaeltacht (+14% or 247 people).

The largest increase in the number of people was in the Galway County Gaeltacht with an additional 2,937 people compared with 2016, which was up 11%.

Mayo’s Gaeltacht population had the slowest population increase (+1% or 129 people).

At 69%, An Cheathrú Rua had the highest proportion of daily Irish speakers in the country. Cill Rónáin on Inis Mór (58%) and An Spidéal (44%) had high percentages of daily Irish speakers.

There were 149 Irish speakers in Cill Rónáin, and 86 of them speak it daily; and there were 182 Irish speakers in An Spidéal, and 87 of them speak it daily.

There were 102,973 people aged three years and over in the eight Gaeltacht areas; 65,156 of these indicated that they could speak Irish.

This was an increase of 1,492 Irish speakers on the 2016 figure (up 2%).

However, the proportion who could speak Irish in the Gaeltacht areas fell from 69% in 2011 to 66% in 2022.

The Mayo (down 3%) and Donegal (down 2%) Gaeltacht areas experienced the largest falls in the number of people who could speak Irish in the six years to 2022.

The Meath (up 11%, 117 people) and Waterford (up 15%, 187 people) Gaeltacht areas experienced the largest increases in the number of Irish speakers since 2016.

The number of Irish speakers in the country has grown since Census 2016 but in most cases, they were speaking it less frequently, the CSO said.

Almost 1.9 million people (aged three years and over) stated they could speak Irish, an increase of more than 112,500 people since 2016 (up 6%). The people who could speak Irish made up 40% of the population aged three and over.

Nearly 57,000 non-Irish citizens could speak Irish.

The number of people who stated they could speak Irish but never did so grew by 13% to almost 473,000. Nearly 72,000 people spoke Irish daily, which was almost 1,900 fewer than in 2016 (down 2%) while just over 115,000 people spoke Irish weekly.

Nearly 615,000 people spoke the language less often than weekly, up 5% on 2016. Almost 554,000 people only spoke Irish within the education system, a slight decline since 2016 (1% or almost 4,700 people).

Non-Irish citizens who spoke Irish included 13% of Polish citizens (more than 10,800 people), 13% of Latvian citizens (over 2,100), and 15% of Australian citizens (more than 500).

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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